Mandated reporting refers to the obligation to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Some people in certain professions may be required by law to file a report if they suspect or know that child abuse is taking place. These people are referred to as mandated reporters, such as doctors, nurses, day care workers, police officers, social workers, psychiatrists, and teachers. The laws regarding who is a mandated reporter vary from state to state. In New Jersey, any adult who has reasonable cause to believe a child has been subjected to child abuse is required to report it to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP).
The DCPP is the agency responsible for investigating reports and allegations of child abuse and neglect. By law, they must begin an investigation within 24 hours of when a report is received. Then, they have 60 days to complete the investigation and issue a finding.
What Constitutes Child Abuse?
In New Jersey, a child under 18 years old is considered to have been abused when the parents or guardians of that child have inflicted or allowed to be inflicted physical injury that was intentional and not accidental. The definition includes creating substantial risk or ongoing risk of harm to the child. Committing sexual abuse or allowing sexual abuse of the child, excessive corporal punishment, and excessive physical restraint are all forms of child abuse.
Also, parents and guardians who do not provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, medical or surgical care though financially able to do so are committing child abuse or neglect. Willfully isolating the child from ordinary social contact that inflicts emotional or social deprivation is also considered abuse.
What Is Included in a Report?
If a person suspects a child is being abused or in danger of being abused, they do not need proof to make a report to the DCPP, but they should have reasonable cause or suspicion to believe that child abuse is taking place. If someone believes the child is in imminent danger, they should call 911 to reach the police. Otherwise, cases with reasonable cause should be immediately reported to the New Jersey Child Abuse Hotline.
While school or other institutional guidelines for reporting suspected abuse or neglect to a supervisor should also be followed, the report should go immediately to the New Jersey Child Abuse Hotline. When a person calls, they will be asked to relate detailed information regarding the child and the caretakers, including their names, phone numbers, address, and contact information. They will be asked about the type and frequency of alleged abuse or neglect, whether the child has current or previous injuries, and when the abuse occurred and where.
The hotline operator will want to know the location of the child and if the alleged abuser has access to the child. This is to determine if the child is in imminent danger. After making a report, the reporter should not contact anyone in the child’s family.
What if a Child’s Statements Are Vague or Confusing?
Even when a child says something vague or confusing that could indicate abuse, it should still be reported. Mandated reporters are not required to validate any claims or allegations, nor do they have to be certain that abuse or neglect has taken place.
In all circumstances, it is important to listen to the child without expressing anger or disbelief. A child should not feel forced to give information. Once the DCPP receives a report, trained professionals will carry out an investigation. If you are being investigated by the DCPP, you should know you have legal rights. You should hire a lawyer who can advocate for you.
As long as a report is made in good faith, there is no penalty for making a report to the DCPP. However, it is important to note that failing to report suspected abuse can not only can put a child’s life and health in danger, it may leave the reporter liable to civil or criminal prosecution. The law requires every adult living in the state of New Jersey to immediately report suspected child abuse or neglect.
In New Jersey, failure to report suspected abuse or neglect according to the law is considered disorderly conduct. This can result in a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months imprisonment, or both.
All reports to the New Jersey Child Abuse Hotline remain anonymous. This is to provide protection for people who might be hesitant to report child abuse.
Moorestown DCPP Lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Provide Legal Counsel to Those Being Investigated by the DCPP
If you are the subject of a DCPP investigation, our Moorestown DCPP lawyers at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker can help. Although reporting child abuse or neglect is required, that does not mean the reporter’s information is accurate. Call us at 856-795-9400 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.